Wednesday, November 30, 2011


for Jeffrey D. Wilhelm and Bruce Novak

How wise am I?  How good has my life been?
These are the questions I may ask at last
When at the sill of death and staring in,
Reviewing the events of my whole past.

Were it not better, though, to ask them now—
How wise?  How good?—when there may yet be time
To rectify my ways and disavow
What’s silly and seek after what’s sublime?

What’s wisdom but to realize what is
Of value to oneself and everyone,
Which does not take the genius of a whiz,
Nor need a lengthy lifetime to be done.

     Of all things we might value, one above
     The rest is true, and that of course is love.



A sonnet is “a moment’s monument”
That celebrates, encapsulates and keeps
The living memory of some grand event
Or just a wayside flower that fancy reaps.
Its purpose is to capture and preserve
What otherwise would vanish in the shade,
Honoring with dexterity and verve
Whatever earns a lasting accolade.
Yet underneath this lyric’s bright veneer,
A further motive prompts the sonnet’s birth:
To celebrate the very sonneteer
When long descended in forgetful earth.
     In ages hence, this flicker may still shine,
     And you may know its radiance was mine.


Monday, November 28, 2011


To read a Shakespeare play takes more than eyes;
To read aright requires you use your voice,
For it’s a script, not text, and you must vocalize
The character, and only then rejoice
For then you’ve brought to life a breathing soul,
Provoked, it’s true, by merely printed signs
But now inhabited and made a role
With which your inner animus aligns.


Sunday, November 27, 2011


Addicted to the pattern of this form,
Its fourteen lines of five iambic feet,
With subtle variations from that norm,
He finds how thought develops to that beat
Making its way as rhyme leads on to rhyme
While something new unfurls along the page,
Sometimes predictable, sometimes sublime,
A kind of freedom bound in this tight cage.
It’s just this paradox, the liberty
Of mind that such confinement brings to him,
That captivates him while it sets him free
And makes an hour an infinite interim.
     While soaring through imagination’s skies,
     He simply sits until right words arise.


Saturday, November 26, 2011


The missing virtue in most men, he knew,
Is temperance, midway betwixt extremes
Of hot and cold, a lack that causes rue
Yet generates the best dramatic themes:
Thus Romeo and Juliet, inflamed
By passion’s torch, prepare for their escape
From violent Verona and its maimed
Inhabitants—yet find their tomb agape.
And likewise Hamlet, proving passion’s slave,
In rashness stabs the foolish counselor,
Thus sealing his own journey to the grave,
A fate that flights of angels would deplore.
     But Shakespeare’s stock and trade depended on
     Intemperance that leaves us woe-begone.


Friday, November 25, 2011


If dogs are counted as a population,
And they exhibit personalities,
Then they deserve a higher class or station:
For dogs are people, too, despite species.

They live with us like children and as friends,
Each one expressing its own character
And giving that on which our joy depends:
Bright eyes, excited yips, and gorgeous fur.

But if you say they have no language skills,
Thus cannot count as people properly,
Then you’ve not seen how they express their wills
And make us do their bidding when they plea.

     Of course, we haven’t asked for their opinions;
     They may prefer to think that we’re their minions.


Thursday, November 24, 2011



To think that we shall live beyond our lives,
That something after corporal death survives
Perhaps to reincarnate and return
Because it has more lessons left to learn,
May be the most pernicious folderol
Since prophets long ago proclaimed our Fall:
False hope, false fear—we need no such delusions
Dissuading us from sensible conclusions.

We have but this one, precious life to live,
Which will be lovely if we learn to give
And share reciprocally what thriving needs
And not to cram the casket of base greeds.
Those merely looking out for Number One
Will find they’ve died before their lives are done.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The “wisest man in Athens,” Socrates,
Said: “Know thyself,” for just such insight frees
Us also to be wise and realize
What we must shun and what most truly prize:

To know what is of value for our lives
And others’, too, and then how one contrives
To live accordingly best demonstrates
What wisdom is and how it shapes our fates.



To wonder, ponder, speculate, suppose
As if one thus might mysteries disclose
Was how ancient philosophers proceeded,
But modern scientists brought what was needed
To make significant discoveries:
A method that employed hypotheses,
Empiric tests and proof beyond a doubt.

Still Archimedes was the one to shout
“Eureka!” when he stepped into his tub
And watched the water rise.  His great hubbub
While running naked through Athenian streets
Announced the first of many noble feats
That science would achieve through patient study,
Clarifying mysteries dark and muddy.



I’m sniffing round my mind and memories
Like Gyp, our dog, out on her daily rambles
With no predestined route, moved by the breeze-
Blown scents that prompt her romps and spur her

Then, once I’ve caught a whiff of what I might
Pursue, like her, I set out on its track,
But unlike her I then begin to write,
Nosing out sense, disclosing rhymes I lack.


Sunday, November 20, 2011


     When memory morphs into imagination
     It undergoes deletion and conflation
     While faithful rendering becomes depiction:
     Then what was meant as history turns to fiction.


Saturday, November 19, 2011


          What started as a swarm that order lacked
          Has here become a formal artifact.



     It matters not what doctrine you believe,
     But how your credo leads you to behave;
     What counts are deeds of goodness you achieve
     That save you from the terror of the grave.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


All undefined by pathways or straight streets,
A walk for Gyppie has no destination~
She prowls along her customary beats
On routes determined by pure nosegation,

Which leads her to hop curbs and walls to scour
Beneath dense bushes where the scent of cat
Allures her, heedless of the threatening glower
She gets confronting one, the impending spat.

Where we align our lives for rectitude,
The ways of dogs defy geometry;
Their rambles are a shapeless interlude
Of wanderlust and sensuality.

     Which may be why we love and envy them:
     They get away with what our rules condemn.



“Do unto others as they’ve done to you”:
That Leaden Rule prevails in every land
Where reciprocity is always due,
Which keeps the wrathful fires of vengeance fanned.


Monday, November 14, 2011


Whoever wrote the plays in Shakespeare’s name,
If not the glover’s son from Stratford town,
Some nobleman whom popular acclaim
Would sully and prompt priggish peers to frown
(So goes the speculation of detractors),
That man remains mysterious today
Because of the conspiracy of actors
Colluding to disguise the truth for pay.
Why not assume a humble country lad,
A genius, let’s allow, and strictly schooled
In grammar, logic, rhetoric and bade
To study classics might in time have fooled
     The supercilious arbiters of fame
     That in a man there’s more than in a name.


Saturday, November 12, 2011


What are we but an evanescent breath?
And when at last our spirit has expired,
Leaving this clod where we reside enmired,
We then rejoin the universe of death.
Or is there more to spirit than mere breath?
Is it an animus divinely fired,
Whose flame grows brighter as it is inspired
By a vitality transcending death?
We cannot know.  This is a mystery.
And we can only speculate and guess
What may transpire when we have breathed our last.
Still, we may hope, and that may help us be
A mortal with few evils to confess
With spirit calm as our last breath is passed.


Thursday, November 10, 2011


There comes a time when Judgment must let go
Its vise-like grip, demanding rectitude
And, though unmerited, let Pity flow
To evil ones, however cruel and rude.

Though Justice be not served, yet Mercy is,
That higher calling of humanity,
Which Jesus on the cross revealed as his,
The only route to health and sanity.

     Without solicitude and pardon’s cure,
     Our evils would eternally endure.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Three men I know are very near their ends:
A fool, a menace, and a kindly soul.

The first’s oblivious which way he tends,
Dementia having taken its sad toll,
Yet he and prudence always were at odds
While appetite and pleasure drove him on.

The second one hung out with brutes and clods,
An artful dodger and a practiced con,
Cruel to his family and all his kin,
While solely looking out for Number One.

The third, a gentleman who’s clear of sin,
Can happily gaze back on all he’s done
For others’ sakes, glowing with modest pride—
Only in him does charity reside.


Saturday, November 5, 2011


My poetry comes from my head, not heart,
And thus do I prefer to call it “verse”:
If I could put the horse before the cart,
It might be more affecting, if less terse.

So tightly bound by rhythm and by rhyme,
So measured out by merely rational schemes,
It never can ascend to the Sublime
Or hearken to grand elevated dreams.

O, let me summon Pegasus to fly
On “viewless wings of poesy” with me
Upon his back beyond the azure sky
And enter cordial realms of ecstasy.

     My heart exalted thus, my eyes then clear,
     My pen might write a line men can revere.


Thursday, November 3, 2011


          If you break laws of nature or of man,
          Expect ill consequence will foil your plan,
          Since retribution is inherent in
          Commission of both error and of sin.



Each morning Keena cock-a-doodle-doos,
Pointing her stubby snout towards the sky
And letting loose a mournful yodel whose
Pathos prompts Gyp to emulate her cry.

Their duet lasts ten seconds at the most,
But it’s enough to start me from my sleep
Or in my dream to make me see a ghost
That’s howling in some darksome dungeon’s keep.

Then, just as suddenly, they cease their song,
Go back to sleep, relieved of agony,
Oblivious to what a minute past seemed wrong,
Yet leaving startled me in misery.

     Two dogs do not a ruddy rooster make,
     And that’s a bloody awful way to wake.